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Chapter III.5
Mannion! I had never suspected that the note shown to me at North Villa might
have come from him. And yet, the secrecy with which it had been delivered; the
person to whom it was addressed; the mystery connected with it even in the
servant's eyes, all pointed to the discovery which I had so incomprehensibly
failed to make. I had suffered a letter, which might contain written proof of her
guilt, to be taken, from under my own eyes, to Margaret Sherwin! How had my
perceptions become thus strangely blinded? The confusion of my memory, the
listless incapacity of all my faculties, answered the question but too readily, of
"Robert Mannion!" I could not take my eyes from that name: I still held before me
the crowded, closely-written lines of his writing, and delayed to read them.
Something of the horror which the presence of the man himself would have
inspired in me, was produced by the mere sight of his letter, and that letter
addressed to me. The vengeance which my own hands had wreaked on him, he
was, of all men the surest to repay. Perhaps, in these lines, the dark future
through which his way and mine might lie, would be already shadowed forth.
Margaret too! Could he write so much, and not write of her? not disclose the
mystery in which the motives of her crime were still hidden? I turned back again
to the first page, and resolved to read the letter. It began abruptly, in the following
"St. Helen's Hospital.
"You may look at the signature when you receive this, and may be tempted to
tear up my letter, and throw it from you unread. I warn you to read what I have
written, and to estimate, if you can, its importance to yourself. Destroy these
pages afterwards if you like--they will have served their purpose.
"Do you know where I am, and what I suffer? I am one of the patients of this
hospital, hideously mutilated for life by your hand. If I could have known certainly
the day of my dismissal, I should have waited to tell you with my own lips what I
now write--but I am ignorant of this. At the very point of recovery I have suffered
a relapse.
"You will silence any uneasy upbraidings of conscience, should you feel them, by
saying that I have deserved death at your hands. I will tell you, in answer, what
you deserve and shall receive at mine.
"But I will first assume that it was knowledge of your wife's guilt which prompted
your attack on me. I am well aware that she has declared herself innocent, and
that her father supports her declaration. By the time you receive this letter (my
injuries oblige me to allow myself a whole fortnight to write it in), I shall have
taken measures which render further concealment unnecessary. Therefore, if my
confession avail you aught, you have it here:--She is guilty: willingly guilty,
remember, whatever she may say to the contrary. You may believe this, and
believe all I write hereafter. Deception between us two is at an end.